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Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect Hardcover – February 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A revolution is under way in social science, and Robert Sampson’s Great American City offers an excellent exemplar of the new turn. . . The book convincingly demonstrates that individual outcomes are not the simple result of atomistic choices but reflect highly contingent decisions that unfold within spatially grounded social structures and institutionalized processes that limit options and reproduce existing inequalities between individuals, households, and neighborhoods. By situating human beings within a well-defined social system, Sampson contextualizes individual actors and their decisions socially, spatially, and institutionally.”

(Douglas S. Massey Science)

Great American City takes us from the grand theories conjured by its commanding title, down to the iconic street corner to see what it really means when windows are broken. This is a book of big, challenging, provocative, and inspiring ideas, as well as of meticulous, rigorous, and exhaustive data. Sampson has truly shown his shoulders big enough to be counted among Chicago’s most venerated social observers, as well as the most astute theorists of place.”

(Mary Pattillo Northwestern University)

“After Great American City we will never be able to view cities in the same way again. This is one of those rare books that deeply affect how we think about the world. It teaches us afresh how the neighborhoods we live in affect us and the people around us. And there are also immense policy implications. Robert Sampson shows definitively how the fate of the urban poor is so very dependent on the communities in which they live.”

(George Akerlof Nobel Laureate in Economics, University of California at Berkeley)

“Robert J. Sampson's important new book challenges prevailing notions of community decline. Sampson argues that our communities continue to matter a great deal and that our lives are powerfully shaped by where we live. . . . [With] lots of empirical detail and theoretically driven, Great American City shows the striking persistence of poverty across its neighborhoods from 1960 to 2000."


(Richard Florida The Atlantic)

“It’s good reading which is a rare compliment to a sociologist. . . A very important book.”

(Milt Rosenberg WGN Radio)

"Robert J. Sampson's very readable research findings are theoretically rich, cutting-edge in urban research, and should be inspirational for future researchers in urban sociology. . . . A definite must read for anyone interested in groundbreaking upper-level urban sociology. Essential."
(Choice)

"Robert Sampson's Great American City is a landmark work in urban sociology in part because it contributes so richly in different ways to our understanding of how neighborhoods operate in Chicago. But it is also a landmark work because it so richly in so many different ways strongly asserts that the community in community studies matters."
(Claude Fischer City & Community)

"Rob Sampson has written a great book. It is a must-read for almost all sociologists and demographers, and especially important for urbanists. Though I have written numerous book reviews and read countless others, this essay is by far the hardest one I've been asked to do. It is hard for two reasons: first, there is so much excellent material in Great American City to write about that it is hard to know where to begin; and second, the book is so good it is difficult to keep from being overly effusive in praising it."
(Nancy Denton City & Community)

Great American City is the rare example of a highly anticipated book by a leading scholar that exceeds expectations. Combining Robert Sampson’s observations with major data collection on neighborhoods in Chicago and original analytic methods, the result is a compelling argument for the importance of place. Neither a purely theoretical nor empirical study, Great American City is an impressive model of how theory, data collection, and analytic methods can be combined to the benefit of all three endeavors. . . . Among the most important works in sociology in recent decades. . . . Through its publication, Sampson establishes himself as our modern Robert Park, and Great American City can be justly regarded as the most sophisticated Chicago School study ever produced.”
(Lincoln Quillian Contemporary Sociology)

“There is a scene in the film Crocodile Dundee in which a young hoodlum threatens the titular protagonist with a knife. In response to his girlfriend’s tremulous observation of this fact, Dundee, unfazed, brandishes a comically much larger knife and quips sardonically, “that’s not a knife . . . THIS is a knife.” The hood turns tail, Dundee returns the knife to its sheath, and the film chugs merrily on. I was reminded of this scene several times while reading Robert J. Sampson’s Great American City. With respect to social scientists past, present, and future: THIS is a book.”
(Jeffrey M. Timberlake Journal of Urban Affairs)

Great American City definitely is one of the best bang-for-the-buck values in recent years. It is worth the very small investment to own this magnum opus regardless of the research site.”
(Robert J. Bursik, Jr. Theoretical Criminology)

“Following in the influential tradition of the Chicago School of urban studies, but updating it for the twenty-first century, [Sampson] argues that communities do still matter because life is decisively shaped by where we live. Neighbourhoods influence a wide variety of phenomena including teen births, altruism and crime. Not even national crisis can destroy the enduring impact of place.”
(BBC Radio 4's "Thinking Allowed")

About the Author

Robert J. Sampson is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and coauthor of Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points through Life and Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 552 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (February 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226734560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226734569
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bingo Buchanan on August 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, Robert Sampson clearly summarizes two decades worth of research on neighborhood effects in Chicago and provides new findings that move urban studies forward. While some of Dr. Sampson's journal articles are dense and complicated, this book is not. It is incredibly clear and concise. Sampson wisely leaves out explanations of the rigorous and advanced statistics used to draw the conclusions, and focuses more on interpretation and explanation. This approach makes the oftentimes confusing neighborhood effects research much more accessible. Sampson also provides what is probably the clearest definition of collective efficacy to date.

This book is a must-read for people interested in how a neighborhood can affect life outcomes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Keith Ammann on April 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I'd give this book five stars for scholarship, just shy of three for readability. This is not a work for general audiences but a scholarly volume written by a sociologist for sociologists. As someone who was keenly interested in the subject matter from the outset, I nevertheless found it to be a dense and difficult read from beginning to end, and I had to fight to keep my attention on the page. Sampson's findings, however, are wide-ranging and profound -- so much so that I believe this book deserves to be, and will be, a landmark publication in the field of sociology. I hope it does. I also hope its findings are presented to policymakers and the general public in a more accessible form, because they have the power to change lives.

I especially appreciated being introduced to the concept of "collective efficacy": the ability of residents to improve their communities through organized action. We can all think of places that are known for it and places that are known for lacking it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jack Trawick on August 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very important book, and the culmination of decades of social research determining the relationship of "neighborhood effects" to persistent, place-based urban poverty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Molly on May 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent introduction into the study of neighborhoods as an academic unit of analysis. The book is very well-written and solidly argued.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book does a great job bringing awareness to is faced in historically oppressed areas. Even today these urban communities are still oppressed bu the wars on drugs verses needed wars on poverty. The rich get richer, the poor get prison, the oppressed stay oppressed through the mass incarceration of minority males and the lack of Quality mental health services and economic resources. This book is a must read to bring awareness to this urban crisis.
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By Ranchito on August 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was quite a dense read, however I appreciated Sampson's thoroughness and depth of research. I became much more interested in the topic the more I read. It's definitely a textbook kind of read, but worthwhile if you're interested in working in neighborhoods.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent book for a researcher.
For those readers that do not conduct research, you can safely skip over the statistics and read the text and gain insights.
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